by Frank Carulli
August 1, 2017
Harness racing's newest millionaire had to earn every penny in the race that produced the milestone victory.
Fear The Dragon (David Miller) sustained a long, first-over bid and wore down Huntsville to win in the $400,000 Delvin Miller Adios Pace for the Orchids final that featured the respective North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace champions.
Huntsville cleared to an easy lead for driver Tim Tetrick but set a demanding half-mile pace at the The Meadows in :53.3 to do so. Fear The Dragon (David Miller) launched a bid from fifth on the backstretch, drew abreast of Huntsville on the final turn but appeared to stall. Hunstville shook clear briefly in mid-stretch, but Fear The Dragon dug in for a half-length win in 1:49.1, similar to what he had done in the North America Cup last month. R J P (Yannick Gingras) made a menacing rail run at the top pair but settled for third behind North America's top two ranked Standardbreds.
"At the head of the stretch, I thought Huntsville had us put away," winning trainer Brian Brown. "But 'Dragon' never gives up. He just keeps on fighting."
Tetrick felt the same way. "I thought I had him beat," he said. "My horse grabbed the left line a little bit, but he raced well and had every opportunity to win. Hats off to Fear The Dragon."
Fear The Dragon's victory capped a big day for owner-breeder Bruce Trogdon’s Emerald Highlands Farm. Two other Emerald Highlands homebreds -- Blazin Britches and Whatstroublinurocky -- won Grand Circuit stakes earlier on the card.
WALNER TO MISS HAMBLETONIAN
The world's most prestigious harness race took a 180-degree turn last Thursday when it was announced Dan Patch Award winner Walner suffered an injury and will not race in the $1 million trotting classic this Saturday, Aug. 5, at the Meadowlands.
Walner, 9-for-10 lifetime with a $567,652 bankroll, loomed a prohibitive favorite among the 3-year-old class after he won the Stanley Dancer Memorial in a stakes-record 1:52 at the Meadowlands July 15.
Trainer Linda Toscano, who won the 2012 Hambletonian with Market Share, said Walner's injury was not career threatening but there was no timetable for his return.
"We have to do what is best for the horse," Toscano said. "He’s special. I can’t do anything that might hurt him. I can’t take a chance. We talked about it and collectively made the decision. It is what it is."
It is suddenly a wide open, 92nd installment of the Hambletonian that will appear on CBS Sports Network from 4-5:30 pm EST. Devious Man, second to Walner in the Dancer Memorial, upset New Jersey sire stakes champion and Hambletonian contender Long Tom in the Emprie Breeders Classic at Vernon Downs in 1:52.4. International Moni, 2-for-2 this year, is another one to watch after he scratched sick at the Meadowlands July 8 with colic but bounced back with a qualifying second-place run.
Entries for the Hambletonian will be drawn Tuesday. Gates open at 10 a.m. Saturday with a driver autograph session from 10:30 to 11:30 and the first post set for noon. Fans will receive a commemorative Hambletonian baseball cap.